Friday, August 25, 2023

Rowing Lesson

20 August 2017

My son wasn't interested in my first offers to teach him how to row, when he was 7 and 8 years old,  though he loved to be out in boats and drive them. So I imagined that it was something in which he had little interest, and in which he might not ever have any interest. So I was surprised when he finally said he wanted to learn at the age of 9 by how very quickly he picked it up. By the end of the first lesson I was able to let him row in the rear of the boat (la poppa), the place from which one steers the boat by altering the angle of the oar in the water as one draws the oar back towards one's chest. He picked it up so quickly in fact, that I soon realized I didn't need to row at all and could lounge in the front of the boat and leave everything entirely to him. By the end of that first lesson he'd even taken to rowing with just one hand, as he'd seen gondoliers do, with that showy nonchalance that characterizes them--and I realized I'd been wrong about him having no interest in rowing those previous years: rather, he'd been watching people do it closely enough to mimic them convincingly when he chose to learn himself.

By the second lesson he was so adept that I decided we could venture onto the Grand Canal, with all its traffic, which is what is shown in the image above (though I am rowing in the poppa on the Grand Canal).

In spite of the tourist crush and its many problems, Venice is a marvelous place for a young child to grow up, and it pains me to see how few children there are in the city, and how that number, like the population in general, continues to decrease. 


  1. How wonderful! I remember being taught to row (English style, heading backwards seated, of course) by my father, an excellent oarsman, when I was about 8 or 9. Your son will never forget the skill, or learning it.

    1. Whether facing forwards or backwards, seated or standing, rowing is an awfully nice way to get around, and a wonderful experience to share.